Words to Describe Sickle Cell Pain

I often find it hard to describe to those who don’t suffer from Sickle Cell how the pain feels. It can be complicated to explain, especially since there are so many different levels of Sickle Cell pain. I personally experience some type of pain each day. Most of the time the pains may be mild, but every so often they’ll get slightly more severe and I worry that they’ll develop into crisis pain.

I saw a nice graphic on a Sickle Cell Instagram account recently that summed up the types of pain neatly, so I am going to try and recreate that list in this article to show words that can be used to describe the pain at all levels.


When the pain is mild

During this phase you can still go about your day as usual, but you’ll likely feel some discomfort.

Dull
Annoying
Nagging
Pinching
Pulsing
Light


When the pain is getting worse

This is when it starts to interfere with your daily tasks and concentration. This is usually when I start talking painkillers.

Beating
Sore
Intense
Tender
Sensitive
Aching

When the pain is at crisis level
At this point its better to stay in bed and rest. Drink plenty water, take your painkillers and consider going to hospital if it gets worse.

Excruciating
Throbbing
Stabbing
Sharp
Tender
Piercing
Agonizing
Unbearable
Burning
Torturous

It’s important to understand that with Sickle Cell, a mild pain can become crisis level pain in a matter of hours, so the pain should never be fully ignored. A sufferer should always be taking precautions. Carry a bottle of water with you everywhere you go, eat food that is good for your blood, never over-exert yourself and take your medication as advised.